Blacktop Rain

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The Heron Journals




Wherever I live I seem to encounter herons. In St Andrews a solitary heron lived on the Kinnessburn, in Manchester there is a pair of herons living on the pond in Alexandra Park, and in Nottingham there is another pair of herons at the university’s Jubilee Campus. Here’s a series of short posts about those herons, some of them memories, some of them first hand accounts jotted down in notebooks.

We see the heron on our regular walks along the Kinnessburn, the river we must trail to reach the town. Usually it is stood at the river’s edge but today it treats us to an aerial display. It enters our vision and swoops down along the river, its long wings stretching across as though reaching out to each shore, trying to encompass its territory. It passes round a bend and out of our vision again. A momentary wow on the landscape.

It is New Year’s Day and we’re driving to Dunham Massey to bring in the new year with a walk. As we head down the dual carriageway the heron flies up out of a garden, its long wings and legs unfolding in the air like a bundle of sticks dropped from on high. It seems like a good omen for the year ahead.

I saw a grey and white bird coming down to land on the garden fence and assumed it was just another wood pigeon, but as the bird straightened up I realised it was the heron that lives in our local park.

I grabbed my binoculars, which now live permanently on my desk. He was stood upright, his neck fully extended. The two black feathers that hang down the heron’s neck fluttered in the breeze. They made him look like a warrior ready for battle. He bent his neck and jumped down behind the fence. I lowered my binoculars but kept watching, knowing he would have to rise up again.

A few seconds later he did, pushing up on those impressive wings. He flew over our garden and over two of the gardens to my left, before circling back and repeating the same flight pattern to my right. He then flew out of sight over the roof. I kept watching. He flew back in to my line of vision and swept over the gardens once again before flying over the roof in the direction of the park.

Later on the heron returned. The cat knew the heron was there before I did because he jumped off the window ledge and ran across the room. I looked up in time to see the heron fly past my window with something hanging from his mouth. I grabbed my binoculars hoping to see what he’d caught, but I was too late, he was already flying away with his back to me. I followed his flight until he disappeared again over the rooftops.

This morning as I was jogging through the park I saw two baby herons in their nest. I heard them before I saw them; they were squawking incessantly. I stopped jogging to watch them. Their nest is a rather ramshackle collection of twigs and sticks in a tree on an island in the middle of my local park’s pond. At first I thought the branches and leaves beneath the nest had been spray-painted but they are silver with bird droppings.

I could just see their open beaks and their Mohican style head-fathers poking out from the nest. Further along the branch was an adult heron. I’m probably wildly anthropomorphising now, but I could swear the adult heron looked fed-up. No wonder, having to listen to that squawking all day. After a short while I carried on with my jog and saw an adult heron flying over the tree tops towards the island. Hopefully there was food in its beak for the baby herons.

I looked for the baby herons as I jogged past their nest today, but they were gone. The nest is empty.

It’s been misty and mizzly for days now and today is no exception as we walk along the shore of the lake. We spot the heron sat at the shore with its neck tucked away and its head buried in to its chest, as though bracing against the miserable weather. As we watch the heron it stands up and starts to walk. I have only ever seen herons standing still or flying and it loses some of its awe and mystique as it stumbles along on its ungainly legs. A coy carp leaps up out of the water and catches the herons attention, it stops and turns its head. Unimpressed, it carries on.

Please leave your heron stories in the comments!

Photo used under Creative Commons from cobalt123

Author: Naomi Racz

I am a nature writer, with a particular interest in urban nature. I also write about social media and work in communications with an NGO.

3 thoughts on “The Heron Journals

  1. sitting on the decking in my back garden with a friend one summer, a heron flew right over our heads and we just looked at each other and said wow in unison then sat in silent awe

  2. Pingback: A rainy afternoon at Attenborough | Blacktop Rain

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